From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Feb 06 2009 - 06:24:27 EST
thiopian tyrant Mengistu Haile Mariam may lose his Harare haven
By Chamunorwa Bhebhe
<http://www.statcounter.com/wordpress.com/> wordpress hit
FOR 17 years, Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former Ethiopian strongman who
slaughtered opponents on an industrial scale in the "Red Terror", has lived
in Zimbabwe as the honoured guest of President Robert Mugabe, dividing his
time between a heavily guarded villa in Harare, a farm near the capital and
a retreat on glorious Lake Kariba.
Last year, an Ethiopian court sentenced the "Butcher of Addis" to death
after convicting him of genocide but Mugabe refused to extradite the man who
helped to arm ZANU-PF's guerillas during Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war.
But the future of one of Africa's worst tyrants suddenly looks less assured.
Next week, Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change will enter a
unity government with ZANU-PF, and MDC chief spokesman Nelson Chamisa said
yesterday that Mengistu's extradition to Ethiopia would be "high on the
agenda" of that new administration.
"Zimbabwe should not be a safe haven or resting place for serial human
rights violators like Mr Mengistu," Mr Chamisa said. "We can't shelter
purveyors of injustice."
Few Zimbabweans would shed tears if Mengistu, 71, were sent home to the
gallows. Mugabe has spent millions of dollars giving him a villa in a
barricaded cul-de-sac with round-the-clock protection and any number of
other benefits, such as the payment of huge telephone bills, including one
In return, Mengistu has advised Mugabe on security issues, and was allegedly
the mastermind of Operation Murambatsvina in 2006, in which security forces
and ZANU-PF thugs razed the homes of 700,000 slum-dwellers regarded as MDC
Mengistu has plenty of experience in that field. He seized power after a
military coup in 1974 that ended emperor Haile Selassie's 44-year rule and
ushered in one of the bloodiest regimes Africa has known.
In 1976 he mounted the "Red Terror" campaign against opponents of his Derg
regime by standing in the centre of Addis Ababa, shouting, "Death to the
counter-revolutionaries", and smashing bottles filled with pigs' blood to
demonstrate the fate that awaited them.
Over the next few years more than 500,000 people were thought to have been
killed in what Human Rights Watch called "one of the most systematic uses of
mass murder ever witnessed in Africa".
Relatives had to pay a tax called "the wasted bullet" to retrieve the bodies
of the dead. The victims included the former emperor and numerous members of
the royal family. Mengistu is said to have executed some of them himself.
He turned Ethiopia into a Marxist state, backed by the Soviet Union, earning
the sobriquet the "Black Stalin". He created giant collective farms that had
the same ruinous effect on agricultural production as Mugabe's land seizures
in Zimbabwe, and that helped to cause terrible famine.
His Soviet-armed military sought to crush an independence war in Eritrea and
an uprising in Tigray province, but when the Soviet Union collapsed Mengistu
lost his sponsors. He fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 as the Tigre People's
Liberation Front and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front surrounded
Addis. Washington asked Mugabe to accept him to end the bloodshed.
As Mugabe's popularity has plunged, Mengistu is rumoured to have made
contingency plans to move to North Korea. Now might be the time to dust them
off - if he has not done so already.
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